Okay. I’m down in Los Angeles. There are two things of note here, quite in conflict with each other, but not really separable.

First– let’s talk about The Grove. I came to this place yesterday; it is like the Ultimate Mall– it’s not just a shopping center, but it is carefully designed to be almost some sort of destination… a place to bring the whole family… with dancing water fountains, a santa and sleigh suspended between two buildings, and other incredibly contrived shit like that.Almost (but not quite) as contrived as Santana Row, which adds fucking APARTMENTS to the mix so that you literally never have to leave. Not quite as bad as that, but still in the same family tree.

Now mind you, in the last month, I have been to this mall more times than I have been to ALL OTHER MALLS IN THE PAST SEVERAL YEARS TOTAL. I absolutely loathe malls for this reason: every single square inch of them is designed to take away your money. And rarely do they sell you anything that you actually need. If you go to a mall, chances are that you are going to drop $50, $100, or even more… and you really won’t be any better off than if you’d just gone home instead and not stopped there.

So yes, I detest malls. But I seem to keep finding myself at this one. (There is a high degree of correlation between this, and the fact that my girlie works there. How about that.) But that doesn’t mean I like this place. It’s like a square block chock-full of every single thing that I hate about Los Angeles, a town that I’m otherwise trying to make my peace with.

Last night was especially bad. The Grove had some sort of holiday tree-lighting bullshit, complete with choir, Dionne Warwick, VIP seating, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, broadcast by radio stations, etc.

Do you see why I hate this? NONE of that stuff matters in life. None of it.

But the fatass that owns The Grove wants you to think it does, because by your merely going there, chances are quite high that you will drop that $50, $100, or more. I don’t want to be a curmudgeon, but what sort of cause for celebration is lighting a tree? Even in the grandest of Christmas spirits, this is a non-event. Yet the fanfare that accompanied this was incredible: red carpets, VIP seating, and television commercials.

The event was a chaotic nightmare, unlike anything I’ve seen in years. I was stuck, waiting for Maya to get off work. I spent the time in a bookstore. When I emerged, the place had suddenly become overrun with thousands of swarming people. It was shoulder-to-shoulder; nobody moving; families with strollers trying to push through the crowd. It took ten minutes to go a few hundred feet. But what made it worse was that there were NO PATHWAYS, no areas designated for through traffic. It was a TOTAL MOB. Three fire trucks and dozens of police were there; but they weren’t directing foot traffic at all, instead they were just standing there looking official. I became totally exasperated when my only escape route was barricaded off and I could not escape.


Then today, I’ve found myself at The Grove again. I took a little break and went to the movie theater and watched The Motorcycle Diaries.

My choice of movie was mostly dictated by this: what is starting soon, so that I can get back to my official employment, that I was playing hooky from? So I decided on that. And although I’m not otherwise really huge on Che Guevara, I will take a biography (especially a highly rated one) over the usual schlock any day.

First, more than half the movie took place in Peru, filmed at places I’ve been. Viva la homeland!

Beyond that, though, I was not expecting the movie to be so marvelous. Rather than pay attention to the little seedlings of Guevara’s revolutionary thought– which it could easily have done– the film instead was an interesting study of motivation, and discovery. It’s a study of two friends who start with the same direction, but end up diverging onto their own roads through life. It’s an story of a person’s discovering their life’s calling; and an examination of things that go through a young male mind: the push-pull between leaving the nest and discovering the world, and the instinct to settle down and nest. It was a peek into a mind that saw through BS and remained true to his self. Whether or not this romanticizes Guevara’s later life is irrelevant, because the focus here was on a young man’s discovery of the world and himself.

So after the movie, I stayed and watched the credits, which included real footage of Guevara’s road trip buddy, Alberto Granado, now an aged man. For several minutes, I just stayed there and pondered the things that I always ponder: where am I in the world? What direction is it going in? What am I doing to Make Shit Happen in my life? How can I make a difference? What can I do to make sure I see past the white noise, and give emphasis to what matters, and dismiss that which doesn’t?

And so I emerged from the movie theater, feeling uplifted and encouraged, only to find that I was once again in… The Grove.

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